FULLERTON, Calif. – The UCLA men’s and women’s cross country teams won their final tune up before the Pac-12 Championships by claiming team titles in the Titan Invitational, Friday evening on the Cal State Fullerton campus.
"The team ran with a lot of fire today,” coach Forest Braden said. “We had athletes take a chance and really go for it out there. Our redshirt crew ran phenomenal.”
The women breezed to the team title in the 5K, outdistancing San Diego State, 31-56, while the men downed the division I field in the 8K, racing past host Cal State Fullerton, 88-120.
Sophomore Jen Owen placed third overall and first among division I runners with a 17:34.3. Junior Paisley Pettway finished sixth overall with a 17:49.8 while freshman Aliya Shirif crossed the line in 11th with an 18:06.5.
Sophomore Kelly Brooks finished 13th overall with an 18:13.7 while junior Ava Kent closely followed in 14th with an 18:14.5. The freshmen duo of Rachel Brajkovich and Nicole Evans rounded out the Bruin top-seven with Brajkovich finishing 17th in 18:21.1 and Evans crossing the line in 18:32.6 at 24th overall.
Senior Kristina Rivera finished 37th with an 18:57.5 followed by senior Caitlin Schmitt (38th, 19:04.5). Junior Merissa Kado finished 42nd with a 19:08.1 while senior Amber Murakami posted a 19.18.3 to finish 49th. Running unattached for UCLA was Emily Scharmann (10th, 18:00.0).
“Jen also showed that things can go less than perfectly throughout a season but one race can turn it all around,” Braden explained. “It will be fun to have her back with the team for the postseason. Paisley had been one of our most consistent racers and she did so again today with a nice personal best. When the girls run together as a team we are very hard to beat. We need to keep this up in our last three meets of the season."
The men finished third overall but first among division I teams with freshman Austin O’Neil leading way in 10th with a 24:44.6. Freshman Nolan Dickson placed 17th with a 25:14.2 while sophomore Nathaniel Cushing-Murray followed in 20th with a 25:25.9.
Junior Chase Zukerman finished 39th with a 26:04.5. Rounding out the Bruins top-seven was freshman Blake Myers (83rd, 27:47.0) and junior Philip MacQuitty (89th, 28:16.9).
Running unattached for the Bruins was freshman Myles Smith (4th, 24:22.4), freshman Richard Ho (5th, 24:26.6), sophomore Sean Davis (8th, 24:41.8) and freshman Max Davis (14th, 25:00.9). Distance coach Forest Braden won the race in 23:55.1.
“Myles and Richard went for it big time and Sean ran the race of his life,” Braden said. “Nolan Dickson also had the best race of his young career and I expect him to gain confidence through this and carry it over to track season. Austin and Max also were impressive. The future looks bright for these guys.”
The schedule quickly turns into championship season the next week for the Bruins. The Pac-12 Championships is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 2, on the Coal Creek Golf Course in Louisville, Colo.